In fact, the Baptist General Convention of Texas made a training video about preventing “sexual misconduct” in churches, and on the video, you can see BGCT director Sonny Spurger saying, “Most of ours are heterosexual relationships with adults.” (See part 4 of the video on “clergy issues.”)
I’ve even seen well-respected Baptist academics spout this view that, for Baptists, the clergy “sex” problem involves “misconduct” with adults and not the abuse of kids as with the Catholics. These are people who ought to know better and who ought to be demanding some data before they simply regurgitate the propaganda of the Baptist machine. But, of course, even highly educated academic people can still have blind spots when it comes to seeing the falsity in their own faith group where they’ve built their lives and careers.
Whenever I see this “our problem is adults, not kids” propaganda, it really burns me. Here’s why.
- How the heck do they know? How can they possibly go around suggesting that, for Baptists, the problem is primarily about “misconduct” with adults rather than abuse of kids when no one in Baptist circles is even keeping any good records? What data do they have to support this claim? Answer: They have none. Why? Because no one in Baptist circles even cares enough to keep track of clergy abuse reports made by the victims themselves.
- After massive media pressure, the Catholic leadership commissioned a multimillion dollar two-part study from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to try to get a handle on the extent of the problem. The first part of the study, completed in 2004, had some serious flaws, but at least it provided the beginning of a yardstick for assessing the clergy abuse problem among Catholics, and it’s WAY more than Baptists have bothered to do. Baptists have cared so little that they haven’t even attempted to get a handle on the extent of the problem.
- Based on the limited data that actually DOES exist -- insurance data obtained thanks to the Associated Press -- Baptists do indeed have just as big a problem with clergy abuse of kids as do the Catholics. So, when the Baptist General Convention of Texas spews its “our problem is adults” propaganda, it’s just flat-out contrary to what the data actually does show. If they want to refute that data, then they need to make a conscientious attempt to assess the extent of the problem instead of just spewing propaganda.
- The Baptist General Convention of Texas is effectively USING clergy abuse of adults as a shield to divert attention away from their clergy abuse of kids problem. Why? Presumably because they think it makes them look better. I can just hear them now: “Oh… we know it’s bad… but at least our clergy aren’t abusing kids like Catholic priests did.” This does a terrible disservice to BOTH groups -- to those abused as vulnerable adults AND to those abused as kids. It effectively exploits those who were abused as adults to further the BGCT’s own propaganda, and it denies the reality of the many who were abused as kids.
- The fact that it’s the Baptist General Convention OF TEXAS doing this spin-job makes it particularly troubling. Texas is one of the few states whose laws make a clergyman’s sexual exploitation of an adult a felony. So, when BGCT officials talk about ministers having “affairs” and committing “adultery” with congregants, there’s a high probability that what they’re really talking about is felony conduct. They’re using the soft terminology of “sexual misconduct” to minimize what really amounts to sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and sexual assaults.
- People in the pews put their hard-earned dollars in the offering plate, thinking that a portion will be used for missions work through the Cooperative Program. But a sizeable chunk of their hard-earned dollars -- dollars that they think are going for God’s work -- are really being used to pay for public relations people who spew such hurtful propaganda as this. It’s propaganda that serves only to protect the institutional image and that keeps kids, families and congregants at greater risk. People in the pews deserve better.